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USA into round 16 by the skin of their teeth despite disastrous display against Portugal

The pressure was on for the USA as they went into the final game of group E against Portugal. The team's destiny depended on what happened on the night. A victory would see them through to the round of 16 and given their goal difference with the Dutch was favorable, the USWNT would also top the group.

A draw would likely be enough, but the team didn't want to take their chances. The players and staff would undoubtedly be keeping a nervous eye on what was going in Dunedin between the Vietnam and the Netherlands. With both teams tied on points going into tonight's game, the 'Oranje's' objective was to score as many goals as they could to overturn their opponents' advantage.

World Cup debutants Portugal, no pushovers

The Iberian nation certainly was certainly no an easy opponent either. Very solid defensively and dangerous on the break they would be determined to make the US's night as difficult and uncomfortable as possible. What's more, after a 2-0 win over Vietnam and narrowly missing out on a draw against The Netherlands, the Europeans were fighting for their lives. Fransico Neto's team would be determined to cause an upset and knock out the world number one team.

The US came charging out of the blocks in the first five minutes. The news of criticisms over their first two performances must have been filtered down to the dressing room. Alex Morgan was particularly fired up- USWNT legend Carli Lloyd may have been responsible for that after saying she should be dropped before the game- and went close with a decent effort six minutes into the game.

She looked determined to prove her doubters wrong. Lynn Williams, who was one of two changes Vlatko Andonovski made to the starting eleven (Rose Lavelle was also included), almost repaid the coach's faith in her after her headed attempt was saved by the well-positioned Portuguese goalkeeper Ines Pereira.

A very underwhelming first half in Auckland

The remaining half an hour was incredibly underwhelming. After a decent opening ten minutes, the US completely lost their rhythm. It was as if someone flipped a switch and the players just turned off. It was a similar story to the first few games really... there seemed to be a complete lack of a game plan and understanding between the players. They struggled to put more than a couple of passes together. It was cagey and ugly at times. The team looked lost. Portugal was the better side and threatened especially in the wide areas, with Jessica Silva a menace for the Europeans down the right-hand side. For the USWNT, it was one of their worst first half performances in recent times.

Just after the referee restarted the game for the second half, the stadium alarms started to sound... an unfortunate yet apt reflection of the danger the USA were in if they didn't get their act together (turns out it was a false alarm as people were told to make their way back to their seats) Morgan, rather like the early minutes in the first half, looked sharp and had what was the best chance of the game up until that point.

After some clever movement from striker, she was picked out by a lovely Lindsey Horan pass in the area and managed to wiggle around the onrushing Portuguese goalkeeper Pereira and get a shot off with her weaker right foot. It seemed to trickle towards the goalmouth in slow motion before being cleared off the line by Gomes, who booted the ball out for a corner. Rose Lavelle was also positive in the early stages of the second half, breaking the lines with several trademark runs.

The 'Oranje' easily secured their spot atop Group E

With the Netherlands 6-0 up with a quarter of an hour to play, first place was out of reach for the USA. A draw was all they needed, and it looked like the players were happy to settle for the 0-0 scoreline. Megan Rapinoe called upon as Andonovski looked to his veteran striker to change the game. She was welcomed onto the pitch with a huge roar. That really was all the fans had to cheer about for most of the second half.

The entire United States held their breath in the stoppage time when Portuguese substitute Ana Capeta was played in behind the US defense. With just the keeper to beat, her effort struck the post. It was just inches away from a historic win. The tension in the stadium, composed mostly of American fans, was palpable. By the end, they were pleading with the referee to blow the final whistle.

Despite the draw sealing the USWNT's qualification, the team were extremely poor on the night. They lacked substance and ideas and their woes in front of goal continued. The USA must find a way to improve... and fast. The knockout stages are a different beast altogether and the stronger teams won't be so kind on them.

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